PHILADELPHIA>> Faith Christian flew out to a 25-8 first quarter lead and never looked back, cruising over top-seeded Sankofa Freedom 49-35 Tuesday evening.
“We were good with our game plan, we had scouted them twice so we had an idea of who they were,” Faith head coach Dave Forker said. “We had an idea of what they were good at and what they might struggle with a little bit…our plan was to put pressure on them and change our defenses as much as we can to keep them off balance. In the first quarter it worked out really well.”
The victory sends Faith to the District 1/12 A championship game Saturday.
Faith had the perfect cycle going in the first quarter, scoring on offense, setting up the press, and using turnovers from it to score more on offense. The Lions forced eight turnovers in the opening eight minutes.
Liz Hoffman started Faith off right, scoring the first seven Lion points of the game. She kept it going in the second quarter as well to finish game with 15 points and 5 rebounds.
“It definitely felt good. For the past couple games because you have a different role on the sidelines,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman has been injured most of the season for Faith, but her slashing and cutting proved vital in the Lions’ quick start.
“I think you can tell by that first quarter, definitely how (the offense) changed a lot),” fellow-senior Ashley Forker said. “She brings a whole new level of energy.”
Autumn Brownell broke the game wide open in the first, scoring eight points in less than a minute behind a pair of free throws and a pair of threes.
“I think that says a lot about her as a player, because her last game she didn’t hit a shot,” Ashley Forker said. “It was really discouraging for her and it just really wasn’t her night…she just stuck with it and said ‘OK that wasn’t my night. I’m just gonna shoot anyway.’ I think her taking that step forward gives us that boost.”
Ashley Forker played Swiss army knife for the Lions, as she scored just five points but dished out six assists (five in the first quarter), grabbed eight rebounds, and had three blocks.
“I think it’s not so much focusing on what’s not flowing for you,” Forker said. “It’s just kind of being the player my teammates need me to be, I guess you could say.”
The Lions also proved to be the aggressors in the first half, going to the line 17 times to just 5 for Sankofa. All that resulted in a 38-17 halftime lead.
Things did get a bit dicey for Faith in the third quarter, as Sankofa ran off the first eight points coming out of the locker room.
“The big lead helped us a lot, because things got a little bit shaky,” Dave Forker said “It was just a matter of keep doing what we’re doing and making a couple shots. We were just trying to keep going and play like the game was tied.”
Forker again showed her leadership after a timeout, getting to the line on two straight possessions and being more assertive on offense.
“In big games we need her to balance (her game) and take it to the hole sometimes,” her coach said. “She’s best when she drives and creates for other players and she was doing that well tonight.”
The senior was also more aggressive on defense after the wakeup call, being a catalyst in forcing six Sankofa third-quarter turnovers.
“To be honest, she’s a complete player,” Dave Forker said. “She knows what she needs to do when we need her to do it.”
Sankofa cut the deficit to 10 at one point in the fourth quarter, but never got it to single digits to really test Faith.
Faith now prepares for the District 1/12 championship game, knowing they are already qualified for the state tournament, finally fully healthy as a team.
“Having all five seniors healthy again – it’s been since the end of December since we’ve really had that – it’s exciting for them because they’re all seniors,” Coach Forker said. “To be honest we didn’t know if Liz was gonna get back, especially…to have all five of them be available for our final run here is really cool to see.”